African and Arab football fans expressed pride in Morocco’s historic performance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup after the Atlas Lions wrapped up their campaign on Saturday in fourth place, having lost 2-1 to Croatia in their third-place show down.
Commentators said Qatar’s Khalifa International Stadium witnessed a large turnout of Moroccan supporters who said they wanted to see their team win the bronze medal and jeered each time the Croatians possessed the ball while whistling each time the Atlas Lions took possession.
The final statistics of the third-place face off were a reflection of the evenly matched nail biting fixture that nearly witnessed an extra time play off, had Moroccan forward Youssef En-Nesyri scored his 90th minute attempt after he headed a cross from Attiyat Allah, over the cross bar.
The Croatians started the encounter on the front foot and took control of the game in the seventh minute after defender Joško Gvardiol scored the opening goal resulting from an assist by Ivan Perišić who helped his 20-year-old teammate head the ball past Morocco’s Yassine Bounou.
The Atlas Lions demonstrated their fighting spirit after they equalized less than two minutes later, when defender Achraf Dari headed a goal past Croatia’s Dominik Livaković resulting from an assist by Hakim Ziyech who delivered the ball into the box.
The score line changed again just before half time after winger Mislav Oršić put the Croatians up in the 42nd minute, having curled a shot over the Moroccan goalkeeper which hit the post but re-directed in goal.
Both sides showed class having evenly maintained 42 percent ball possession with 12 percent in contest.
The 2018 finalists had more attempts at goal, having taken 13 shots with four on target. In response, the Atlas Lions attempted at goal seven times and had two shots on target.
Zlatko Dalic, Croatia’s coach spoke to media after the game during which he applauded the Moroccans for their die-hard spirit.
“We won a tough game,” said Dalic.
"This is a medal for the Croatian people and it's really great that we won two medals in two tournaments, so big congratulations to my players," added the Croatian coach.
Defending 2018 Champions France and Argentina are set to clash in the 2022 World Cup final Sunday December 18.
The match will witness either a back-to-back win by France, the first since the 1958, 1962 Brazil championships, or the first World Cup win for Argentina's Lionel Messi.
Some of the information in this report was sourced rom Reuters.